87.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, August 12, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesLOTS OF TALK, NO CASINO EMPLOYEES

LOTS OF TALK, NO CASINO EMPLOYEES

Under subpoena to appear before the Senate Finance Committee, Michael Bornn, acting Tourism commissioner, told an almost unbelievable story Monday of mismanagement and folderol that has resulted in a serious compromise of the opening of the first casino on St. Croix.
Kevin Rames, chairman of the Board of Governors of the V.I. Hospitality Training School, failed to show up for a Sept. 3 hearing and therefore the subpoenas were issued. He did not attend Monday either, because he was unable to fly from St. Croix due to the heavy rains that afternoon, according to Sen. Lorraine Berry, committee chairwoman.
Bornn, who is also on the school's board of governors, told senators the only way St. Croix's first casino, slated to open in December, could comply would be to disobey the current law.
Under the Casino Control Act, the V.I. government was mandated to provide six months of training in "every facet of casino operations" to resident workers before any casino licenses could be issued.
The mandate was part of a protracted battle to legalize casino gambling on St. Croix in hopes of boosting the island's faltering economy.
A major part of the controversy involved the definition of who was a "resident Virgin Islander" and could therefore work in casinos.
But a full four years after the Casino Control Act was finally passed, not one Virgin Islander has been trained to work in a casino. And though funds were identified in 1997 to fund the hospitality school, which was also mandated, not one cent was received for training until "last Thursday," according to Bornn.
Amid testimony by other subpoenaed members of the governing board, including Orville Kean, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, and Ruby Simmonds, commissioner of the Education Department, it was revealed that Divi Resorts offered to do the training for the casino gaming but was turned down in favor of the government-run school.
The bill for the school, including training, consultation, a rebuilt facility and equipment, is approximately $200,000.
Of that, a full $40,000 is earmarked to "convert a shopping center to four classrooms," according to Bornn. There was no answer as to why or how this plan had been approved when both UVI and the St. Croix Vocational School could have provided space for the training.
Bornn made it clear to the legislators that the law was going to have to be amended if St. Croix was to have a casino open for the 1999-2000 tourist season.
"Divi is committed to hiring residents — it makes good business sense — but they have to have trained employees in order to open," Bornn said.
The highly regulated casino industry has very specialized training for dealers. The budgeted money would allow 130 students to be trained in the operation of five games.
But senators and testifiers alike weren't sure if the 130 applicants would even finish the training.
And another question was, would Divi hire them?
Grapetree Shores Inc. owns the resort and casino on St. Croix. Divi Resorts will manage the hotel. The casino will be leased to Treasure Bay V.I. Corp., an affiliate of Treasure Bay Corp., which owns a large casino in Biloxi, Miss.
The Casino Control Act states that at the end of the first year of operation, 65 percent of the employees must be bona fide residents. The figure rises to 75 percent at the end of the second year and to 90 percent at the end of three years.
The act defines a resident as someone who has been continuously domiciled in the V.I. for 10 years or native-born Virgin Islanders.
Bornn said the government had failed in its responsibilities.
"Ÿou cannot open a multimillion-dollar business with roulette dealers who are wet behind the ears," he said.
Divi's goal to open in December cannot be accomplished under the current law, Bornn said, imploring the senators to act quickly.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
Under subpoena to appear before the Senate Finance Committee, Michael Bornn, acting Tourism commissioner, told an almost unbelievable story Monday of mismanagement and folderol that has resulted in a serious compromise of the opening of the first casino on St. Croix.
Kevin Rames, chairman of the Board of Governors of the V.I. Hospitality Training School, failed to show up for a Sept. 3 hearing and therefore the subpoenas were issued. He did not attend Monday either, because he was unable to fly from St. Croix due to the heavy rains that afternoon, according to Sen. Lorraine Berry, committee chairwoman.
Bornn, who is also on the school's board of governors, told senators the only way St. Croix's first casino, slated to open in December, could comply would be to disobey the current law.
Under the Casino Control Act, the V.I. government was mandated to provide six months of training in "every facet of casino operations" to resident workers before any casino licenses could be issued.
The mandate was part of a protracted battle to legalize casino gambling on St. Croix in hopes of boosting the island's faltering economy.
A major part of the controversy involved the definition of who was a "resident Virgin Islander" and could therefore work in casinos.
But a full four years after the Casino Control Act was finally passed, not one Virgin Islander has been trained to work in a casino. And though funds were identified in 1997 to fund the hospitality school, which was also mandated, not one cent was received for training until "last Thursday," according to Bornn.
Amid testimony by other subpoenaed members of the governing board, including Orville Kean, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, and Ruby Simmonds, commissioner of the Education Department, it was revealed that Divi Resorts offered to do the training for the casino gaming but was turned down in favor of the government-run school.
The bill for the school, including training, consultation, a rebuilt facility and equipment, is approximately $200,000.
Of that, a full $40,000 is earmarked to "convert a shopping center to four classrooms," according to Bornn. There was no answer as to why or how this plan had been approved when both UVI and the St. Croix Vocational School could have provided space for the training.
Bornn made it clear to the legislators that the law was going to have to be amended if St. Croix was to have a casino open for the 1999-2000 tourist season.
"Divi is committed to hiring residents -- it makes good business sense -- but they have to have trained employees in order to open," Bornn said.
The highly regulated casino industry has very specialized training for dealers. The budgeted money would allow 130 students to be trained in the operation of five games.
But senators and testifiers alike weren't sure if the 130 applicants would even finish the training.
And another question was, would Divi hire them?
Grapetree Shores Inc. owns the resort and casino on St. Croix. Divi Resorts will manage the hotel. The casino will be leased to Treasure Bay V.I. Corp., an affiliate of Treasure Bay Corp., which owns a large casino in Biloxi, Miss.
The Casino Control Act states that at the end of the first year of operation, 65 percent of the employees must be bona fide residents. The figure rises to 75 percent at the end of the second year and to 90 percent at the end of three years.
The act defines a resident as someone who has been continuously domiciled in the V.I. for 10 years or native-born Virgin Islanders.
Bornn said the government had failed in its responsibilities.
"Ÿou cannot open a multimillion-dollar business with roulette dealers who are wet behind the ears," he said.
Divi's goal to open in December cannot be accomplished under the current law, Bornn said, imploring the senators to act quickly.